Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Interview Links

Here are some links to a couple important Smokies interviews we've done recently.

First of all, Trail Coach and GM Jim Ingram discusses the trade today:

Second, President Tom Gawryletz breaks down the team's financial situation:

Third, here's an interview with Trail Jays Pitching Coach Collin Gibbs. The Jays won the Canadian Days Tournament over the weekend. They went 4-0 in their first games of the pre-season. Kellen Jones of the Vernon Vipers threw a complete game for the Jays in the championship game. Congrats to the Jays and I hope to see more of the same.

Fourth, I did an interview with Connor Jones on he and his brother Kellen heading to Quinnipiac University in 2010. The Montrose natives will continue to build that rivalry with the Smokies for the next two BCHL seasons before heading off to Division 1 NCAA hockey.


We'll talk to new Smokies goaltender Marco Raimondo. How does he feel about being a Smoke Eater? What goaltender inspired him to strap on the pads? Who does he model himself after? What are his goals? The Montreal-er will tell his story tomorrow night on Mountain FM. We'll have more on Marco on the blog after the show as well. Hopefully you can tune in. We're also going to be talking about a major bike race that could be coming to the West Kootenay. Our topic of the day will be referees and whether they're worse today or if we just have better technology to scrutinize them. Call in at 1-877-560-1010 or *MTN on a Rogers Wireless. E-mail me at


Congratulations to Rossland's Dallas Drake for making the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in a long career. The 39 year old is a gritty warrior on the ice. With his team fading in Games 4 and 5, Drake stepped up with a goal, an assist and a huge hit in Detroit's Game 6 win against the Stars. I'm not usually a huge Red Wings fan, but you have to cheer for this gutsy player. Crosby and Malkin will get other chances, this may be Dallas Drake's last kick at the can. Go get that Cup! I've got Detroit in 7. I hope and pray this will be a classic series. The playoffs have been pretty boring getting here, but a great finals could make up for it.

Too bad about Canada losing the World Championship to Russia. I missed the game, but I have to wonder if it's time to start questioning Cam Ward as a go to goaltender. He had one hot run in the 2007 playoffs. Since that time he's been average at best for Carolina, and he gave up a couple of questionable goals in Canada's 5-4 loss to the Russians. I'd rather have seen someone a little more consistent in net. I think that was Canada's downfall. The Russians get their top goaltender to show up days after a playoff exit while Luongo, Brodeur, Giguere and other top netminders are no-shows for Canada. I think it says something that our boys can still get to overtime in a gold medal game with marginal goaltending. Bring on 2010!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Smokies Trade Corcoran for Two Caps

The Trail Smoke Eaters have picked up their starting goaltender for next season. 1988 born Marco Raimondo will have the tall task of replacing Grant Rollheiser between the pipes. The veteran Raimondo joins the Smokies from Montreal after a short season in Cowichan Valley. He played 21 games with a 90.64 save percentage and 3.11 goals against average. Raimondo's season was derailed by a knee injury, and Smokies Coach Jim Ingram says Marco is very excited to join Trail.

The trade sent Trail's top goal scorer last season (88) Brett Corcoran to Cowichan for Raimondo and (88) D Brandon Clarke. Clarke is 6'0 and 185lbs. He scored 6 goals and 17 points for the Capitals last season. The four season BCHL veteran from Spokane is expected to provide leadership and strong play at both ends of the ice for what may be a young group on the blue line. Ingram says he's a very strong skater who can play very well in his own zone and provide more scoring than he has so far in his career. Clarke tells me it'll be nice for him to play so close to home for the first time.

Corcoran had asked to be traded closer to home for his last BCHL season. Ingram says Brett had nothing bad to say about the Smoke Eaters, he just wanted to be back on the Island as a twenty year old. In Duncan he'll be about an hour away from home. Brett's a bright young man with a lot to offer what could be a dangerous Capitals forward group next season. I definitely expect him to top 30 goals in the more wide open Coastal Conference. It's always tough to see talented players go, but this clears up the biggest hole for Trail next season. Raimondo should provide veteran play in goal to give the Smokies a chance to win every night.

Ingram's interview is coming up on Mountain FM's Overtime in about 15-20 minutes. We'll talk to Raimondo and Clarke over the next two days. Listen to Mountain FM's Overtime and our newscasts from 6am to 6pm for more information on the deal. Watch the blog for audio files. Still sorting out the audio for the interviews from last week as well.

I also want to add that I predicted this trade a few weeks ago in talking to a couple of people. It just seemed like their needs could match up. If only I could use those powers for the lottery.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Tom Gawryletz Interview (No Audio Yet)

For those interested in the details of Trail's financial situation, I can't seem to get the audio of my interview with Tom Gawryletz to post on to our website tonight. I'll try again when I get back from the long weekend. I'll make sure we have it uploaded by Tuesday because it's important stuff. I believe it's important we clarify the current situation.

It would be very easy to sensationalize this story and yell from the hills about the Smokies running a nearly $28,000 dollar deficit. That is the current number, but we have to make sure all the facts are out there. Usually by this time the team would be able to include the revenue from Kootenay Crystler Bull-a-rama and the revenue from BCHL advertising. That money didn't come in before the end of the fiscal year. In reality, the loss is more like $6000 to $7000. That's certainly something to be concerned about, but it isn't a doom and gloom scenario.

In fact, Tom points out in the interview that the BCHL is likely going to change the travel schedule in a way that would cut their expenses almost by the exact amount of their true deficit. There is lots of reason for optimism. This season there was a new President, a new executive, a new Coach and GM... it was a year of change and a year of many challenges. A last minute coaching change, a rash of non stop injuries, a horrible schedule in January and an underachieving team. They all put the team into a bit of a hole this off season.

However, all those new parts of the team are now experienced and ready to role for next season. The Smokies are recruiting non-stop to bring in hard working, blue collar players. The Alumni dinner and golf tournament is going to be bigger than ever this year with Brian Burke and Cesar Maniago at the dinner (pick up tickets at Gerick Cycle or AM Ford) which this year will be for 500 people! The team can also point to a great record this season of getting their players scholarships to good schools despite all the talk about how scouts never come to Trail. The results are good, the base of support is good, the passion here is still strong.

A 10% decrease in attendance is a problem. That's something the team is gong to try to address next year with some new marketing strategies. Tom Gawryletz touched on some of the ways they might do that in the interview. They're also going to address it by trying to put together the type of team fans in this area love. Hard working, gritty, tough and of course... a winner.

Don't let that first number fool you. This isn't a doom and gloom situation. It's a problem, but one this executive and this team of staff, players and volunteers is definitely going to overcome.

Show your support by going to the fundraisers and buying your tickets.. and this team will be hear for years to come.


I'm off to Banff for the weekend so I hope you all enjoy May long. We'll be back after the weekend. I've got an interview with the Jones Twins to pass along. They'll be joining former Smokie David Arduin at Quinnipiac in 2010. Congrats to the Montrose natives on what should be a great opportunity!

Oh, and lets hope Rossland's Dallas Drake and the Red Wings lock up their spot in the Stanley Cup Finals with a win on Saturday.

Take care!

Smokies lose $28,000 but the figure is deceiving

Tonight on Mountain FM's Overtime we'll have a three part chat with Smokies President Tom Gawryletz. The first part of the interview should be on just after 6:15pm tonight. We'll be talking about the year end for the Smoke Eaters. Reports elsewhere have stated the team lost $25,000. The real number is approximately $28,000. However, that number is a little bit deceiving. The actual loss compared to last year is much less than that. We'll talk about that on Overtime tonight. We'll also talk about what happened to attendance this year and ways to improve that for next season. We'll discuss the status of the organization and the chances for success this year and in the future. There's a lot on the agenda this evening. What is the future of BCHL hockey in Trail? Join us tonight on Mountain FM's Overtime.

If you have any thoughts feel free to give us a call at 1-877-560-1010 or *MTN a free call on Rogers Wireless. You can also e-mail me at

Smokies fans what does the team need to do next year to fill that beautiful old barn?

I'll be back later tonight with a more detailed post on the subject as well as a link to the audio for anyone out of our listening area that can't tune in tonight.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Smokies AGM

Sorry for the late post here. The Trail Smoke Eaters are having their annual general meeting tonight at 7 o'clock. It'll be at the Trail Memorial Centre in one of the meeting rooms. This is obviously late notice, but you should still be able to make it. The meeting shouldn't be too long. I'm told it's just a quick update. I'll have more on the meeting later on Overtime and on the blog.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Captain Bulach Speaks

(Photo by Randy Emery)

Ryan Bulach will wear the "C" for the Trail Smoke Eaters next season. He's a player whose hard work will set a great example for all the young talent joining the team this year. There's going to be a lot of turn over, and Bulach will help the transition in the locker room with his leadership and dedication. I had a chance to talk to the 1988 born forward on Overtime tonight.

I look forward to Ryan taking another step forward next season. He's the kind of guy any top college would be lucky to have. Another example of hard work paying off. Picking him up from Westside was a terrific move by former Coach and GM Tim Kehler. He's the kind of player who can do it all, and in that way he's very similar to former Captain Kevin Limbert. He'll have a lot of interesting players to work with next season. As every day passes I look more and more forward to the drop of the puck.

Don't forget, it's also only a couple of months away from the Alumni Banquet and golf tournament. Brian Burke and Ceasar Maniago will be here... that's just the tip of the iceberg. Head of to the official Smokies website if you don't have your tickets yet.


We'll be talking about if you feel the perosnal lives of athletes are fair game. Should we know about Roger Clemens having an affair? Is it news that Dion Phaneuff is hanging out on the beach with Elisha Cuthbert instead of playing in the World Championship? (Incidently, is she related to Chris? Could that explain her love of hockey... players) Is it our business as fans or media? Or maybe when does it become our business and when should that line be drawn? 1-877-560-1010, *MTN on your Rogers Wireless or e-mail us at


Welcome to Boston University fans that stopped by the blog after the link from their fan blog. Just to be clear I am not assuming Rollheiser will start slowly. There's obviously a transition that every rookie is going to go through when jumping to a higher level. Especially one where they play against men. It's just that his routine the past couple of seasons has been to battle it out for the job for a couple of months until clearly winning it and playing at an elite level down the stretch. I'd rather have fast finishes than fast starts personally. Rumour on the BCHL message board is that there will be another goalie going to Boston for next season. I don't know anything about that but I wouldn't be surprised if they wanted a little more competition at camp.


I went 1 for 4 in my second round predictions. Frankly I should just give up. I told you I always underestimate Dallas! I'm going to keep doing it too. I'm going with Detroit in 5 games and Pittsburgh in 5 games. I don't think either series is or should be close. It's the playoffs so you obviously never know, but to me the favourites in this round are obvious. If my record so far in the playoffs is any indication, you can bank on a Dallas vs. Philadelphia final.

In the West I just don't see Dallas having the depth to deal with the high end talent Detroit brings to the table. Ever since they've eliminated the distraction of Hasek's manic play, the Wings have been unstoppable. Franzen is feeling it at a level that guys like Fernando Pisani have before, and that doesn't usually go away until the end of the playoffs. Zetterberg has elevated his play to the point that he may be the best two way player in the game today. Lidstrom is the best defenceman in the game today. Osgood continues to prove me wrong. There's a physical element on the roster that is underrated. I just don't think anyone can top them. Turco vs. Osgood is really the only obvious advantage I see for Dallas. Their top end forwards are a step bellow Detroit's. Their top end defencemen are great but a step bellow Detroit's. There's no coaching edge there either. Detroit has been to this dance before while this crop from Dallas hasn't. Everything stacks up in Detroit's favour.

Honestly though, I'll be cheering hard for Detroit this year. Usually I'm not a Red Wings fan, but with Rossland's Dallas Drake in the red and white I would definitely love to see someone bring the Stanley Cup back to the West Kootenay for the first time since Adam Deadmarsh won it with Colorado. Good luck, Dallas... Drake.

In the east, I just don't think Philadelphia has close to the horses to hang with the Penguins. They'll have to goon it up and hope Biron can massively outplay Fleury. I don't see either working out for them. Pittsburgh has been too sharp at both ends of the ice. Their superstars are playing unreal hockey. This is their time to take it to the next level. The Flyers faced a Washington team that was likely the worst or second worst in the playoffs. They faced a Montreal team whose goaltending wilted under the pressure. They aren't ready for a truly elite team.

With that said, it's the playoffs and anything can happen. I'd love to see longtime Oilers Captain Jason Smith fighting for the Stanley Cup again.

Job Opening for Rollheiser

Interesting news for former Smoke Eaters goaltender Grant Rollheiser. The good people at the Terrier Hockey Fan Blog passed on news to me today that Boston University has made it a little easier for Rollheiser to win their starting job next season. They've released Sophomore goaltender and Phoenix draft pick Brett Bennett. What does that mean? Now rookie goaltenders Rollheiser and Kieran Millan from Spruce Grove in the AJHL will be battling for the top job. Millan has recorded a save percentage above .900 in two consecutive AJHL seasons, but his numbers took a step back in his second season. I'm told he was very impressive during his team's playoff run this season, so we'll see how he does at camp this fall.

This is a familiar position for Rollheiser. When he joined Nelson in the 06-07 hockey season it was as part of a tandem in goal. Rollheiser worked all season to win the confidence of Coach Simon Wheeldon, and he was given the starting job for a playoff run all the way to the KIJHL finals. When he joined the Trail Smoke Eaters in the 07-08 hockey season it was as part of a tandem in goal with Paul Barclay. Rollheiser struggled with confidence early, but he found his game and won the confidence of Coach Jim Ingram. Within a month or so Rollheiser took over the starting job and ran with it all the way to a fantastic finish and scholarship to BU.

This whole scenario has got to feel like deja vu to Rollie. Three seasons in a row he jumps to a new level of hockey with another rookie goaltender battling for the starter's job. Each time he started a bit slow as he got used to the level of play, and each time he won the starters job and played at an elite level in the second half. We know the jump from Junior A to Division 1 is a huge leap, but I expect Rollheiser will establish himself as the starter for the Terriers at the very least by Christmas this year. I also expect he'll be doing that after getting his name called by an NHL team this June at the draft in Ottawa. What a crazy three years it's been for the young goaltender.

Here's a release from the university...

(Sent Tuesday, May 6, 2008)

Bennett Released from Men’s Ice Hockey Program Sophomore goaltender made 29 starts in 2007-08

BOSTON – Sophomore goaltender Brett Bennett (Williamsville, N.Y.) will not return to he Boston University men’s ice hockey team for the 2008-09 season, as announced by head coach Jack Parker on Tuesday.

“Our staff has decided that we move in a different direction in regards to our goaltending,” said Parker. “We wish Brett the best in his future endeavors.”

Bennett appeared in 31 games this season, making 29 starts. He posted an .888 save percentage and a 2.63 goals against average along with a 16-10-3 record."

"Killer" Kellington to Trail (New Smokies Visit)

One of the top offensive prospects in the VIJHL is going to be a Trail Smoke Eater next season. Forward James Kellington has verbally committed to the Smokies after an outstanding Junior B season on Vancouver Island. Nicknamed "Killer," Kellington was at the top of the VIJHL scoring race until he ran into injury trouble. An ankle injury limited him to 33 games and limited his production once he returned to the line-up. The 1991 born Kellington still put up 17 goals and 47 points in that time. He brings the kind of creative playmaking the Smoke Eaters were definitely still looking to add in this off season.

I had a chance to talk with him when the Smokies brought a few of their new recruits into town this weekend. The team put them up, took them golfing and brought the out to Kootenay Crystler Bull-a-Rama this weekend. All the guys seemed really impressed by the area and that the team was taking the extra effort to make them feel like Trail was home. I didn't get as much time to talk to James as I did some of the other new recruits, but he definately sounded excited to be here. I'm looking forward to seeing him play. 47 points in 33 games and some people considered that a set back due to injury? That tells you the guy can produce. He was 16 years old playing against men. It's a big jump to the next level, but you have to think Kellington has the skills to put points on the board. I can imagine him working some playmaking wonders perhaps on a line with guys like Ryan Bulach and Paul Mailey who have good shots and can utilize a quick release.

According to the Peninsula Panthers website:
"James is only 16, and is making a very good impression in the VIJHL. James
is talking to a few Jr. A clubs that have expressed an interest in him for next
year. Killer is an offensive player with great speed, and has a second
gear. James has some pretty good moves to get past the defensemen, and is
a nightmare on break-a-ways for goalies."


The Smokies continue to do everything they can to make their new recruits feel like part of the team right from the start. At camp they brought in current and former Smokies to mingle and get to know the young guys. This weekend they brought a few of the new recruits into Trail to show them around the community. The guys hung out with the coaching staff and with the other players who are in town. They went golfing, they went to Bull-a-Rama and they got to meet a lot of the fans and supporters of the team. I had a chance to talk with Jayson Reardon and CJ Legassic about what the visit meant to them. It seems like Trail made a strong impression on both guys.


I've always felt lacrosse and hockey are two sports that should be more closely linked. There are a great number of star hockey players who have also grown up playing lacrosse. Just look at a guy like John Tavares whose uncle is a legend in the sport. I've always found it interesting that a lot of the local hockey players around here play baseball, but don't play lacrosse or soccer. Don't get me wrong, when I was a kid baseball was unquestionably my favourite sport. It wasn't until I was a teenager that hockey and the 1994 strike pushed ball to second spot in my heart. However, if I were training to become a hockey player I would think that a sport like lacrosse or soccer would be a much better way to stay in game shape over the summer. Lacrosse especially keeps that physical intensity up throughout the summer. The hand eye co-ordination, the price you have to pay to go to the net, the battles in the corners, the offensive creativity, the defensive systems... all those things added together makes it pretty much the ideal summer sport for hockey players. Again, I don't mean that as a shot to baseball, but I just found it somewhat strange that lacrosse wasn't more popular in a hard nosed sports area like this. There's certainly a place for both.

That's one reason why I'm so glad to see a new Junior B lacrosse team in the West Kootenay. The Wolfpac made their home debut over the weekend in Castlegar. They're a team that is meant to represent the entire region, but they are based at the Castlegar Community Complex due to it's central location and available floor. The minor lacrosse organization has been building up quite a bit over the past few years. However, they didn't have a place to play when the guys wold reach junior age. This year's team is only playing an exhibition schedule. A lot of the older players hadn't been playing for a few years and it's important to iron out the kinks before you start playing legitimate league games. That being said, I really believe this team has a shot to take a meaningful place in the local sports scene. They drew over 200 fans for their opening game on a night when much of the community was packing the Cominco Arena for Kootenay Crystler Bull-a-Rama. Then again when they played on Sunday at noon the Wolfpac managed over 100 fans at the complex. That's a great start for a team that I hope will continue to grow.

They lost both games against a powerful Kelowna team, but the Wolfpac more than doubled their goal total from the first game (3) to the second (7) and showed a lot of heart and fight. They'll lose more than they win this season, but it's just a step in the right direction. Your next chance to support this new team is May 24th and 25th against Vernon. In the mean time, you can catch all sorts of great baseball and fastball action in our area as well. A ton of stuff to do locally in the spring and summer as we try to fill the void until the next hockey season.


Tomorrow we'll have a conversation with new Smoke Eaters Captain Ryan Bulach. How does he feel about the honour of wearing the 'C' and what are his goals for his 20 year old season with the orange and black? We'll also talk to Dan Horan of the Trail Track and Field Club, and we want your thoughts on animals being used in sporting events.